The main event between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos for the UFC heavyweight title turned out to be an extremely lopsided affair, yet it remained compelling throughout.
What did each fighter do well and what will they be looking to improve for the future? For those interested, read on for my take on last night’s action.
My piece from earlier today goes into more depth on why Junior dos Santos fell short in last night’s main event.
As was the case in the pair’s second bout, the Brazilian’s footwork appeared to abandon him almost from the opening bell.
“Cigano” is ordinarily adept at using lateral movement to keep the fight at range, where he can comfortably employ his counter-punching game.
However, he made things far too difficult for himself at UFC 166, continually retreating in straight lines until the champion trapped him up against the cage.
Additionally, dos Santos failed to make any impression on Velasquez with his jab. Rather than using the jab as a weapon in its own right, the Brazilian appeared to employ it as a range-finder in order to set up his right hand.
This tactic failed to persuade the champion to keep the fight at distance for even a second longer than he had to.
Should dos Santos be fortunate enough to get another crack at Velasquez sometime down the line, he and his team need to come up with an entirely new game plan and address the Brazilian’s fatal lack of footwork when under pressure.
Given the torture he endured last night, it must be difficult for dos Santos to come up with any positives.
On reflection, though, there were some clear improvements from the second fight.
While the result may have been even more decisive this time around, we can probably attribute it to the leaps Velasquez has made in his own game.
The Brazilian has always possessed terrific takedown defence, but he came unstuck against Velasquez at UFC 155, conceding close to a dozen takedowns.
He has clearly made significant strides in his defensive wrestling over the past 10 months, as he repeatedly stuffed the champion’s takedown attempts even while he appeared to be out on his feet.
Similar improvements could be seen in dos Santos’ gas tank.
The Brazilian was breathing heavily midway through the first round of the pair’s second encounter.
Despite absorbing a hellacious beating, he looked much fresher going into the later rounds last night and seemed to retain significant pop on his strikes well into the fourth round.
These improvements didn’t save dos Santos in the end, but you know what they say about clouds and silver linings.
This is going to be a challenge.
How does one look at Cain Velasquez’s performance from last night and come up with any criticisms without looking like an obnoxious pedant?
Me being obnoxious? I know, right?
Still, I’ll give it my best shot.
Let me start by saying the champion was marvelous in last night’s main event. Few performances have come as close to perfection as Velasquez’s demolition of dos Santos.
Believe it or not, he probably could have made things easier on himself in the championship rounds if he hadn’t repeatedly smothered his own work.
Herb Dean was looking for a reason to stop the fight in the third round. Indeed, it looked like he had stopped the bout at one point.
But just as dos Santos was ready to collapse, Velasquez pressed the Brazilian up against the cage and kept him vertical.
Had he separated momentarily and put together a combination or two, the champ could have hit the showers about 10minutes earlier.
I’m nitpicking, though.
Where to start?
After UFC 155, it seemed almost inconceivable to me that Cain Velasquez hadn’t yet peaked as a fighter.
Certainly, every fighter has room for improvement, but perfection is unattainable and the ceiling on Velasquez’s potential was already sky high.
His exhibition of talent, athleticism, technique and conditioning at UFC 166 is perhaps unsurpassed.
There are arguably only two men capable of challenging him at this point. One is Jon Jones and the other is Daniel Cormier.
The latter is on his way to 205 pounds and the former probably won’t be moving up to heavyweight for quite some time.
The only question that remains for Velasquez is can he actually get any better?